Direct Fusion Drive Mars Mission – Deep Space Habitat

Check out our new banner! We modified our spacecraft to use NASA’s Deep Space Habitat:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Source: NASASpaceFlight

The habitat has a 500 day configuration, with more than enough room for all of the astronauts and their supplies!

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/03/dsh-module-concepts-outlined-beo-exploration/
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/04/delving-deeper-dsh-configurations-support-craft/

We will use the Orion spacecraft for transfer from Earth’s surface to Earth orbit, where it will dock with the DFD powered spacecraft.  That is what the banner image is portraying! Once the astronauts are aboard the DFD powered spacecraft, they will travel to Mars and back in roughly 10 months, including a 1 month stay at Mars.  After they have returned to Earth orbit, the spacecraft will dock with the Orion capsule. The crew can then safely return to Earth’s surface aboard the Orion!

Twenty-Four People

That is the number of people in the entire history of human civilization who have left Low Earth Orbit (LEO).  You heard me right, only 24 people (all Apollo astronauts) have left the protection of Earth’s magnetic field.  The prospects of journeying past LEO is a daunting one.  There is dangerous radiation in deep space that the magnetic field protects us from.

There are two types of radiation that pose a risk to astronauts: those that originate outside the solar system, the Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR), and those that come from the sun, called Solar Proton Events (SPE).  The GCR consist mainly of heavy atomic nuclei, while the SPE, as the name suggests, consists mostly of protons.  Both of these types of radiation are high energy, so if they hit an unshielded astronaut they could cause damage to DNA, cell replication, and even lead to cell death.

The SPE, released during solar flares and coronal mass ejections, are especially dangerous as they emit so much radiation that it could be fatal to an unprotected astronaut.  Luckily SPEs are rare and none occurred during the Apollo missions.  Most of the damage from radiation is from prolonged exposure to it, which increases an astronaut’s risk of developing problems such as cancer and cataracts.

Radiation is not the only danger to astronauts on a deep space mission, though.  On a long mission, such as our proposed 308 day DFD powered mission to Mars, the extended period in weightlessness can cause issues as well.  Bones and muscles that normally have to deal with gravity suddenly do not have any load on them.  For this reason astronaut’s bones and muscles (including the heart!) begin to atrophy and lose mass.  The ones most affected are those that fight with gravity: the bones and muscles in the lower back and legs.

Astronaut Ken Bowersox runs on a treadmill using a loading harness.

Image Source: NASA
http://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2009/hm_5.html 

Astronauts will need to exercise daily to minimize these losses, but even that will not be 100% effective.  Similarly there will be radiation shielding on the spacecraft and a storm shelter for the SPE, but nothing is perfect.  These are just some of the risks associated with a voyage to Mars.  Despite the risks, I do not think we will have any problems finding volunteers to be number 25!

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Inventor’s Dinner

Gary and I attended the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) Inventors dinner at Prospect House on the Princeton University campus. Awards were given for 19 patents, patent applications and invention disclosures by PPPL engineers and scientists along with their co-inventors from other institutions.

Gary and I are on a patent application with Sam Cohen of PPPL and Yosef Razin of PSS titled, “Method to Produce High Specific Impulse and Moderate Thrust from a Fusion-powered Rocket Engine: (ARE-Aneutronic Rocket Engine). This is the core technology for our Direct Fusion Drive (DFD). PSS has licensed this and one other fusion patents from Princeton University for DFD work.

I gave a short speech talking about how DFD may take astronauts to Mars in the not too distant future for both orbital and landing missions. We handed out Mars candy bars and DFD bookmarks to the guests.

The dinner was excellent and it was fun talking with our colleagues at PPPL! We look forward to next years dinner!

PSS at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab Open House

On Saturday April 1, PSS participated in the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab Open House to show case our Direct Fusion Drive and our conceptual nine-month manned space mission to Mars in 2024! Our new fusion engine enables shorter transfer times and total mission durations, critical for interplanetary manned space flight. We had great interest in our human mission and many budding astronauts were ready to sign up for the trip.

PPPLOpenHouse2013

Please see our educational page for some fun DFD material for your space enthusiast:

http://www.psatellite.com/research/education.php

More information on this exciting project is available on our Fusion webpage:

http://www.psatellite.com/research/fusion.php

Our SunStation products for Home Back-Up and EV Charging were also on display at the PPPL Open House. SunStation is a green way to provide emergency power to critical loads in your home during an electrical service interruption or to charge your electric vehicle without using any grid power!

 

Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Open House

Please join us at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory from 9 am to 4 pm  on June 1, 2013.

http://www.pppl.gov/openhouse

We will have exhibits on our Direct Fusion Drive, a collaborative project with PPPL to develop a nuclear fusion rocket engine for space propulsion, and on our SunStations for home electrical power backup and electric vehicle charging.